My puzzle of a thousand pieces is nearly completed. I speak of both the analogous one and the one lying flat here on my table. Only the blue and white sky remains unfinished (for now). Based on the image, do you know what city is depicted? I will be moving there in 2021.
The world is my oyster. It’s such a strange and opaque phrase. I am appropriately embarrassed to be using it here but it sure seems fitting as I plan my future. The term has its origins in Shakespeare so it could have five additional meanings, but I’m going with: All possibilities are available, including the chance of finding a pearl. This is pier on which I stand, looking far beyond the shores of America. The world is my oyster. I now search for the pearl.
What an indulgent thought experiment it was. After my decision was made to live abroad, a world of possibilities unfolded before me. Once I had mentally escaped the gravitational pull of my home country, I was suddenly free to float about the spaceship. I could then gaze down upon planet earth from my window and choose where I would like to land. It was exhilarating, liberating. So many grand and exciting places to choose from: Rome, Paris, Istanbul, Sydney, Moscow, Shanghai…. Where in the world shall I live?
I could have taped a map to the wall, put on a blindfold, and thrown a dart towards my future, but that’s not my style. I’ve come too far to not think it through– to interlock more pieces of my puzzle until the right answer emerged. Just as I had arrived at so many other life-altering conclusions in this crazy year of 2020, I would have fun working this where-in-the-world conundrum, too. In a way, I was going home-shopping, but not for a roof and four walls (that comes later); I was shopping the world for a place to call home.
One of the best things about living in Boulder as I do now is the climate. Having lived in Texas my whole life up until two years ago, this climate is new to me. And frankly…what’s not to like? The lower humidity is awesome and, even at the peak of summer, the day’s heat is swept away by the cool night air leaving every morning fresh and chill. More of this, please. So, as my search for a city began, climate was the first consideration. From there I wrote down on a piece of paper all of my critical must-haves. After all, I want what I want, right?! Besides a cooler climate, here’s what else topped my list.
Clean air. I work in solar. I own an all-electric car. It pains me to drive around Denver for work and see that murky dome of pollution hovering over it. Such a downer. Yes, clean air is super-important to me.
English or Spanish. Pretty early-on I decided to limit my search to countries where either English or Spanish is the dominant language. in moving abroad, I’ll have enough going on already to add a language barrier to the mix. Also, though my Spanish is “functional” now, I’ve always wanted it to be better. The thought of making a new life for myself in a Spanish-speaking country is something I find quite appealing.
Small-to-mid-size. In a much earlier blog post (2017 Reboot) I talked about living half-a-year with my friends in Modesto, California. One thing I really liked about Modesto was its size. Not too small, not too big. Size-wise, it was just right. With this in mind, I would focus my search on cities of comparable size- 150,000 to 300,000.
Affordable. Since I was aiming for a lifestyle where working would be optional, I had to focus on cities that scored low on the cost-of-living index.
Quality Healthcare. C’mon! Need I say more?
Low crime. Once I started looking at websites that ranked cities based on all sorts of criteria, I found crime rate indices, too. Ah, good go know. Instantly, low rates of crime became something I would be looking at.
Key criteria in hand, I still didn’t know how to go about conducting a world-wide city-search. “To the Internet!” was naturally my rallying cry. But the internet is a big place. Where would I begin?
Ask A Librarian
I have a longtime family-friend who happens to be a librarian. I called Becky Rose and asked for help. While my question didn’t land directly in her research wheelhouse, she was still able to direct me on to a couple of websites that ended up being quite useful. As an example, here is one of them: numbeo.com
I never found any site that did exactly what I wanted, which would have been to neatly present me with a list of all of the highest-rated cities filtered according to my must-haves. The tedious reality was that I had to hunt, peck and compare cities around the world until I spotted a few places that merited a closer look.
I should also mention that my own chops as a fairly accomplished world traveler (1WorldAtATime.com) gave me a good deal of personal experience to draw upon. Cities like Quito, Ecuador; Santiago, Chile; London, England; and Vitoria, Spain, were all thoroughly considered at one point or another in my search. I have personally spent time in each of these fine cities and think very highly of all of them. However, determining whether or not they became finalists depended solely on how well they matched up against my search criteria.
Conversations with friends who have done their fair share of traveling were also hugely influential. One particular city in Spain called Salamanca was put on my radar after a lifelong friend (David King) told me about the wondrous time he’d spent exploring this small city in western Spain many years ago. I had never heard of this city before, but it ended up becoming one of my finalists.
One city that ranked very high in my search criteria was Montevideo, Uruguay. It has the climate I want, a low cost of living, clean air, a competent healthcare system, and all the rest. Even when I took a deeper research-dive into Montevideo, it remained a great candidate. I read expat blogs, joined a Uruguay Facebook Group for expats, and even had an hour-long Skype conversation with an Austrian retiree who’d been living in Montevideo for the past 5 years.
What I learned is that folks who choose to move to Uruguay sure seem like they’ve got it figured out. It’s a nice life. And so far away from the world’s problems. What ultimately steered me away from Uruguay was that…while it’s a great place to retire, it would be a hard place for someone like me to earn money. As I explained in the previous post, my personal financial resources should provide me with the basic I want what I want lifestyle without having to work. But I just can’t embrace the mind-set of “retiring.” I want to continue working in the solar/renewables industry… assuming they’ll have me.
One other thing that kind of turned me off about Uruguay. From what I gathered, Uruguayans are not very “driven.” They live a super chilled-out lifestyle and that’s the way they like it. No one’s in a hurry. No one (of course I am hugely generalizing) is clamoring to do first-rate work and get ahead in life. Coming from America I thought this might be a little too much culture-shock. Granted, I should expect to make some attitudinal adjustments wherever I’m going, but bounds of reason, right?
The Puzzle of A Thousand Pieces Comes Together
To the six faithful readers of this blog- the ones who have been there from the beginning and read every post with genuine interest. And to all the rest who have caught a glimpse of my musings here and there…. I feel joyous in telling you:
I am moving to Spain. I am moving to Salamanca, Spain.
What a moment this is! I am taking a deep breath now. Getting myself to this point has been such an awesome intellectual, psychological, and literary journey! Of course, my story is far from over (since I am both not dead and haven’t physically gone anywhere yet); I’m just saying the journey from the Puzzle of a Thousand Pieces post to this one has already been epic.
Yes, I will continue to blog as I move forward with my plans. In terms of the central story-arc of the 1 More World blog, however, just a few more posts remain.
Before leaving you today, please grant me a few extra words to tell you about my new city of Salamanca (population est. 150,000), and to thank my friend David King for bringing this spot of earth to my attention. Salamanca is a beautiful ancient-world city located less than 2 hours west-northwest of Madrid by train. Despite Salamanca’s 2000 year old history, it stays relevant today by being a “university town,” home to the University of Salamanca fighting salamanders. [Okay, I made that last part up. I don’t actually know what their school mascot is.] The University of Salamanca is notable for being the third-oldest continuously operating university in the entire world– founded in 1134!!!
I have been to Spain on two different occasions but never to Salamanca. I’m so looking forward to it.
The next four posts of the 1 More World blog are SUPER-interesting. Keep reading!